What do you believe? Do you believe that on a clear day the sky is blue? Do you believe that flip flops are the best footwear? Do you believe that basketball is THE game? Do you believe that your parents love you? Do you believe that you are a unique person loved by God? Do you believe the same thing on Sundays that you do the rest of the days of the week?Today’s Gospel comes from the end of the Gospel of Luke, while the first reading comes from the beginning of Acts of the Apostles. Scripture scholars believe that Luke and Acts were written by the same person. Acts begins with the phrase “In the first book, Theophilus.” “The first book” is Luke’s Gospel. If we were reading from a historical perspective and for context, we would read Luke 24:26-53 first and Acts 1:1-11 second.
In Luke’s reading, Jesus tells His disciples that they have been witnesses to His suffering, death, and resurrection and that they will be His witnesses after they are empowered by the Holy Spirit. They did Him homage, experienced great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God. The disciples’ response is an expression of the new relationship they have with the Risen One.
In Acts, Jesus tells His disciples that they are to continue His mission ‘to the ends of the earth.’ The Ascension plays a pivotal role in linking the time of Jesus to the time of the Church. While Jesus may no longer be present in the flesh, He is present in His Holy Spirit. Since the Church is the people of God, then the Ascension links the time of Jesus to US. How do we carry out the mission that Jesus’ entrusted to His disciples and to us? The men dressed in white garments in the reading from Acts asked why the disciples were looking at the sky. There was work to be done – the work that Jesus left us. They – we – should be about that work. We are to be Jesus’ witnesses throughout the world. Be assured, however, that this work includes prayer and action – you remember as discussed in the second chapter of the Letter of James – faith and works. Prayer and action are interwoven; they are complementary actions. St. Vincent de Paul said that to care for the sick is to pray. The question for us today is how do we make this mission that Jesus entrusts to us practical in our daily life? Does what we do or believe on Sunday differ from what we do or believe on Monday? I would suggest that what we believe needs to be an integral part of our lives every day all the time – 24/7/365.